Here I am, 42 years old, single for almost 4 years and a total of three dates in the past 12 months; this is not the romantic fairy tale ending I envisaged as a little girl. What happened to the husband, 2.4 children, and a suburban house? After all, that is the dream, right? The happily ever after moment that usually arrives in your 20s or 30s. Well, in my case, it would seem a little delayed.
I’m not without a dating history. My first relationship came at the age of twenty and four more relationships followed. Yet still I find myself a 40-something singleton, which to many women is an unenviable position. Do I feel like a failure? Am I angry, disheartened, or embarrassed even? When past relationships ended, I would automatically frame it as a personal failing and spiral into an array of negative emotions and thoughts. My inner critic went into overdrive, quick to remind me that I was unlovable, unworthy, and destined to be single forever. The older I got the less I trusted my own ability to find a good partner and build a lasting relationship.
There is one common trend across my dating and relationship experience – always accepting less than my worth. When a guy expressed an interest, I always felt grateful. I was being chosen and it might lead to my happily ever after. Right from the first date through to the relationship (if it went that far) I would ignore red flags, adapt to fit them, prioritize their needs and give my all, while allowing them to give minimal effort in return. I was so eager to be liked and loved, to keep them happy and make everything perfect, that I abandoned myself and did not even realize it. An unconscious fear of rejection caused me to date guys who were not right for me.
It’s not like in the movies
My approach to romantic love was skewed by two different, yet equally powerful forces. Firstly, I believed that the fairy tale love story could be a reality and the ‘one’ would magically appear, to choose me, exactly like a Hollywood movie. Secondly, a plethora of insecurities, and self-sabotaging behaviors made for an unhealthy relationship with myself. I was a melting pot of low self-esteem, low self-worth, little self-confidence, and a lack of self-love, all combined with a strong inner critic. I was trapped in a false narrative that said life would somehow be perfect and all my insecurities would melt away when someone chose me and loved me.
Thank goodness I no longer look for a relationship to complete me. I no longer fear rejection, nor do I dread the dating game. The reason why? I am a single woman who has spent the past 3 and a half years going inward to work on myself. A huge part of my last breakup experience was choosing to turn the mirror on myself and bring awareness to the limiting beliefs and negative stories that kept me repeating the same relationship pattern over and over. First, there was a hard truth to accept: I was responsible for the guys and relationships showing up in my life. So, the best gift I could give to myself was to investigate the false beliefs I held – that I was not worthy of a loving and healthy relationship – and let them go.
Working on myself has been, and continues to be, challenging, messy, empowering, and liberating. However, the rewards are courage, self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-love. I now have an unshakeable knowledge of who I am, what I desire, and what I am deserving and worthy of. I have inherent value and worth. I give to myself all that I need and no longer depend on another person to feel complete. A potential partner and relationship are things to complement who I am and are supplementary to my happiness.
Now the task is different – to find someone who is worthy of me.
I’m not waiting to be chosen and I don’t automatically say yes to dating opportunities. Instead, I pause and consciously ask, do I like him? Do I choose him? Empowerment and worthiness have replaced passivity and insecurity. These days, my dating and relationship journey is an altogether better experience. Here is why it is different, for all the right reasons:
1. I’m starting from a place of self-love and worth
That feeling of emptiness and lack has disappeared because I’ve learned to accept and love myself, flaws, and all. Tolerating less than my worth is simply not acceptable. I know that good communication, honesty, respect, and meeting me in the middle is not too much to ask.
2. I’ve stopped playing a version of myself. I am always the real me.
There is no more morphing into an alternate version of myself to be accepted and loved. I unapologetically show the world who I am. The right guy will embrace my quirks and love me for the person I truly am.
3. There is no room for passengers
I have a strong sense of purpose. Building my own business, maintaining a healthy relationship with myself, and continuing to evolve on this spiritual journey are central to my vision. I desire someone who is also committed to self-growth, is driven, and will walk in step with me.
4. My red and green relationship flags are non-negotiable
Getting to know myself better has revealed a firm set of red and green relationship flags that serve as a checkpoint, a moment to give serious pause to ask if is this working for me? Am I honoring my standards and values?
5. I desire rather than crave a relationship
I find myself now desiring rather than craving a relationship. I recognize that finding love is not the be-all of a good life. If a relationship comes along then great, and until that time I’m okay. Staying single and happy is preferable to being in a relationship that is not right for me.
6. I listen to and trust my intuition
I’ve learned how powerful my intuition is. It is not silenced by lustful attraction or desperation and fear. I’m more in tune with myself these days so I’m better able to say YES or NO to what comes my way.
7. I recognize that rejection is nothing to be feared.
If a guy decides that I’m not for him, then it means nothing more than the other person saying “no”. That “no” may hurt for a time but it doesn’t change who I am nor does it preclude me from future happiness and love.
8. The vision for my life is more than marriage and children
My search for love was fuelled by the archetypal vision of a husband and children. But whose vision was I really chasing? That vision has changed and expanded, for the better. Healthy attachment, genuine connection, unconditional love, and space to grow are the new goals.
A healthy relationship with yourself is the game-changer
Your dating journey and your experience of relationships will always directly mirror the relationship you have with yourself. The better you know, accept, and love yourself, the better the next relationship will be. Dating and relationships are exponentially harder when we do not value ourselves because instead of having our self-worth and value as anchors to guide us, we make choices from a place of fear and inadequacy.
Knowing myself means I can confidently define what I want a partner and relationship to be and feel like – someone who knows who they are, is committed to growth, accepts me as I am, and walks in step with me. I am more secure in looking for and being in love.
Right now, on my list of things to do and have, dating is marked as a ‘nice to have’. I’m open to meeting someone and to having a relationship. It just is not something I feel a need to chase or force. I’m happy to continue doing me and to pour my energy into higher priorities, like changing careers.
Empowerment comes from within. Know who you are, what you want, what you deserve, and what you are willing to invest for love and why, and the dating game will open up to you as a very different, more satisfying experience.